Ever since I was a girl, I have been fascinated by the truly terrifying. The oldest of four children, I was the evil baby sitter who stayed up late after the kids went to bed munching on popcorn and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan, so by the time I was twelve I had read some of his most hair-raising work and still recall going to bed and pulling the blankets tight up around my neck after reading Salem's Lot.
I have often blogged about my own endeavors into horror writing. During NaNoWriMo I worked quite a bit on a zombie novel and the novel I am trying to complete right now is a ghost story. This afternoon I was working on a writing prompt that came out like some twisted version of Revelations that ended badly for humanity, and it got me to thinking about what types of things other people might find horrific and terrifying. What scares me might not scare you, and visa versa.
Writers like John Saul often incorporate the supernatural and demonic into their work, relying on the Christian fear of God to frighten their readers, while others use monsters and apocalyptic situations. More and more often these days, it seems as if horror has employed a "nothing's shocking" approach, taking nightmares right out of every day life to give their readers a scare. Serial killers and stalkers are the boogeymen of the new millenium, and it would seem that the more outlandish their murder tactics, the more appealing their stories are to most readers.
I personally have a hard time getting into that type of horror and prefer a more paranormal threat. There's something safe (and yet equally mortifying) about the monster under the bed when he's a zombie or a vampire, something we categorize as unrealistic, but it seems that the lack of paranormal proof has pushed the limits of horror into the ghastly and realistic.
Psychological thrillers are another big seller these days. Stories that test the bounds of what is real and suggest that the most horrific of all horrors is the reality we create for ourselves. For example, Stephen King's short story, "1408," which tests the bounds the between the paranormal and the human mind, have the capacity to be truly thrilling because one has to ask, "Is this real or is it a product of the imagination?"
So whether you write horror, read horror or occasionally enjoy a horror movie, what brand of horror scares you the most and why? Has this changed in your lifetime? It has for me. When I was younger I was all about the slasher films. While I definitely appreciated a good ghost story or zombie film, the idea of a serial murder hacking up teens was my idea of a good scare. As a mother to a teen those types of movies now just depress me more than anything.